First, as the population ages, Singapore will need to create strong social support and community networks for seniors, keep them socially engaged, and build up healthcare systems and services.
Second, it will help the young “uncover their diverse talents”, including by spending heavily on education and training.
In his annual Chinese New Year message, PM Lee said that these issues “guide the thinking” behind the Budget, which Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be announcing after the holiday weekend.
PM Lee urged Singaporeans to reflect on them in the quieter moments of the festive season.
“The Government, too, will not stop thinking about what it needs to do to ready our society for these challenges,” he said.
As in past Chinese New Year messages, PM Lee underlined the importance of keeping traditions alive.
“We stay up through the night to see the year in for our parents’ longevity, and give our children red packets for good fortune,” he said, referring to the Chinese belief that staying awake for the night will add years to the lives of one’s parents.
“These customs reflect the enduring hopes of every generation, that our ageing parents live well in their silver years, and our children grow up happy and successful, in a peaceful and prosperous world.”
These are values and attitudes not limited to individual families; they hold society together as well, he said.
“As a people too, we should look after the elderly, as we are the beneficiaries of their labours, and care for the young, who carry our hopes for the future.”
And even as Singaporeans care for their elderly parents, they need to look ahead and provide for their own silver years, he added.
Demographers have calculated that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans would be 65 and older.
PM Lee then called on Singaporeans to make full use of new technologies to get ahead, and with Asia rising, “to seize the many economic opportunities around us”.
The Government, meanwhile, will invest heavily in the young through education and training.
“We will help our young to uncover their diverse talents… so that when they grow up, they can strike out on their own, build their own families and careers, and fulfil their aspirations and dreams,” he said, returning to the theme of family that often resonates in his Chinese New Year messages.
Efforts will also be in place to build the city and infrastructure “so that the next generation can continue to create new possibilities, prosper and flourish”.
In what could be a hint of tax policies to come, PM Lee also called on Singaporeans to uphold the time-tested Asian values of thrift, self-reliance and leaving something more for the children, rather than burdening them with their parents’ debts.
“We must always think beyond the immediate and beyond ourselves, to look and plan over the horizon on behalf of future generations,” he said.
He added: “As we usher in the Year of the Dog, let us be dogged in our efforts to create a better Singapore and a brighter future for our children.”
PM Lee wished Singaporeans a Happy Chinese New Year.